I learned that the hardest party to pull off successfully is Saturday night dinner. This meal is expected to be elaborate: appetizers, first course, dinner, dessert, and coffee. People arrive at 7:30 or 8 p.m. and stay for hours - definitely past my bedtime - and they all go home exhausted.
I use other cookbooks for inspiration. I must say I tend to cook from my own cookbooks for parties.
I try to greet my friends with a drink in my hand, a warm smile on my face, and great music in the background, because that's what gets a dinner party off to a fun start.
I don't like sitting at a table that's too large, where everyone is too far apart. That's a party killer.
If it's a cocktail party, I generally make five or six different things, and I try to choose recipes that feel like a meal: a chicken thing, a fish or shrimp thing, maybe two vegetable things, and I think it's fun to end the cocktail party with a sweet thing.
The most important thing for having a party is that the hostess is having fun. I'm very organized. I make a plan for absolutely everything. I never have anything that has to be cooked while the guests are there. The only thing I might have to do is take something out of the oven and carve it.
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